It is a sweet collection of videos in which a lovely woman shares her memories and recipes from the Great Depression. Clara is so charming, I couldn't help but think of my own grandmother, and marvel at how people survived with so little.
It made me rethink how I approach my kitchen staples - I could feed an army for a month with what I've got stashed around, but frequently feel like I absolutely must go to the store or there will be nothing to eat.
Joined: 18 Oct 2004 Posts: 1654 Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound
Posted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:14 pm Post subject:
Depression cooking is a wondorous and frightening thing (in the wrong hands that is). For a long time I have looked to the thrifty mothers of old for creative ways to make every morsel count, but I never looked to my grandmothers. One grandma lived and worked on a prosperous farm in Oregon, yet never learned to cook well. The other lived in a small town in rural Canada and only learned to save everything. . . and I really mean everything. It was a nightmare cleaning out her house. The atrocities these two comitted in the kitchen could have been considered crimes against humanity. I will never forget all of that milk my brother, sister and I would go through just to get through a dinner prepared by one of them.
Now Phil's grandmothers went through the Depression in one of the hardest hit places in the country Scranton, PA, where even the train cars were stripped if they paused too long. They were relatively new to the country and had not forgotten the cuisine and thrift of their respective Eastern European upbringings and although their food was simple, it was fabulous. Those ladies didn't waste a morsel. I am lucky enough to be in posession of many of their recipes. _________________ "It's watery....and yet there's a smack of ham."
Joined: 24 Sep 2004 Posts: 443 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:10 pm Post subject:
What a lovely series, Mary Sue, thanks for the link!
My grandmother has lots of stories about wartime and post-war cooking when food was rationed (see some of her ration stamps here!), and she never lost the habit of stretching every ingredient as far as it would go. I think of her often when I cook, trying to imagine what she would make with all the bits and scraps the modern cook might be tempted to throw out.
Clotilde, those ration stamps are as beautiful today as they must have seemed when first issued! Somewhere amongst all my grandparent's things, we came across something much more somber-colored, though just as treasured.
There are many times that I feel my grandmother's hand on my shoulders as I cook, guiding me along. I can still hear her cautioning me, "Waste not, want not." Every meal was special in her home. I don't recall seeing her ever toss a single scrap of food, save for the bread crumbs we cut up for the birds.
I was blessed to have 3 grandmothers due to the sad passing of my birth mother very very early on (I never knew her) and Dad's subsequent marriage to Mom 15 months later. All were fine cooks, but all quite different. Grandma Rimmer was English born and raised and raised 7 kids through the depression--I remember thinking no one made baked potatoes like her. Grandma Doherty raised 3 kids throught he depression and was the first person I knew to make her own bread, I can still see her white haired and arms a-flapping punching down the dough to make bread while visiting us as Mom was birthing my sister. And tiny Grandma Tady, all her life on the farm, raising 5 kids through the depression in sand stormy Saskatchewan working at the wood stove in the kitchen, flipping pancakes on the huge cast iron griddle, making pan gravy, that great chocolate pudding crusty on top, liquid on bottom and on and on. But I learned nothing about cooking from them as they were all gone by the time I came to realise what a useful and wonderful skill kitchen work is! But gosh nothing went to waste--that was anathema! Even the potato peels etc became pig feed (just throw them in the slop bucket Davey and take them out to the barn with the scum of the milk after it's been separated)
Looking back I've only just realised one thing. I always thought there was something different and extraordinary about (HOW mundane is this!!) Grandma Tady's boiled potatoes. Only know do I realize that the distinctive flavour came from the soil itself---my first experience of "terroir"!! _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
Joined: 14 Oct 2005 Posts: 827 Location: Oakland, CA
Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:30 pm Post subject:
My mother's mother - Mam-Maw - was a brilliant cook and my first teacher. She also used every scrap. She made Clean out the Refrigerator soup or casserole every Thursday and leftovers at her house were just delicious! My mother apparently was not paying attention! She just didn't like to cook and wasn't very good at it. (She could bake the fluffiest biscuits or cornbread in her sleep, though!)
Sunday dinner was just a riot of food on the table - ham, fried chicken, a roast beef, greens, green beans (cooked within an inch of their lives with slab bacon or salt pork), coleslaw, sliced tomatoes (from the garden in season), corn, biscuits or other homemade bread and some wonderful dessert - cake, pie, shortcake. Mam-Maw won at least five ribbons every year at the county fair for everything from cakes and pies to flower arrangements!
At my grandmother's house there were no packaged cake mixes or puddings. No TV dinners. Everything was from scratch. One of the best sensory memories I have is of opening the cupboard by the sink and out wafted the most deliriously delicious scent of chocolate, spices, nuts and sugar. Just magnificent! I have never been able to reproduce it in my house - sadly!
I have a warm memory of my grandmother talking about living on a farm in Oklahoma during the depression - they were in a river valley in Eastern Oklahoma - away from the Dustbowl. Each year they bought a calf with a widow lady on the farm next door. The widow raised the calf and my grandfather butchered it. My grandmother and grandfather spent a couple of days putting up every single shred of that cow that they could - including canning it, drying it, salting it and packing it in fat - beef confit! Then they gave half to the widow lady and her family and kept half for their family. It's one of my favorite stories from my beloved Mam-Maw. _________________ L'appetit vient en mangeant. -Rabelais
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